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Colombia vs Uruguay| Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images South America

FIFA 2014: A World Cup of upsets

|By Sanjib Guha|

This World Cup has indeed been one full of disappointments and surprises.

One that started with The Netherlands drubbing defending champions Spain 5-1 on the very second day of the FIFA 2014 World Cup hasn’t stopped as yet. If Spain’s humiliation wasn’t enough, minnows Costa Rica came from nowhere to thrash two-time world champion Uruguay 3-1 on the following day.

After having witnessed a plethora of such results, the shock absorbers in us have got used to such unexpected outcomes.

Hence, Brazil winning on luck against Chile or the Dutch rallying from behind to knock Uruguay out of the tournament doesn’t feel great shakes. They were indeed great escapes.

However, it would be naïve to say that those results were against the run of play or the deserving team lost.It was sheer display of speed, stamina and skill. The chutzpah shown by the so-called pushovers actually added an extra dose of thrill and surprise to the championship.

Take for instance Costa Rica who were thought to be the weakest side in the group of death (D) which comprised another three former world champions – England, Italy and Uruguay.

Many pundits got their calculations horribly wrong when Costa Rica got the better of both Uruguay and Italy to put the two champions in a spot of bother for the knockout phase.

Uruguay somehow managed to sneak into second round as the second team of the group while England and Italy found themselves on casualties’ list in Group D.By virtue of the minnows’ giant-killing spree, the central American nation – with a population of nearly 46 lakh – got a comparatively easier opponent (Greece) in the last 16 and is now in the quarters after winning 5-3 on penalties.

Uruguay, who finished the group as the second team, got to face a stern test in Columbia and the fear turned into reality.

Columbia, advancing as the number one side after being clubbed in a relatively easier group, put their best show on Sunday and sent the former champions packing.

Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany’s Belgium is another side which has won all its group H games to have a smooth surge till date.

Be it Costa Rica, Columbia, Belgium or The Netherlands, they not only played good cohesive football but some extraordinary individual talent too came to the fore.

Columbian forward James Rodrigues, whose brace sank Uruguay in the wee hours on Sunday, is the latest. Borges, Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell, Kompany too have won hearts.

If Rodrigues’ first goal from a stunning left-footed volley was proof of his great shooting ability and balance, the second was a testimony to his opportunism, which is still considered most valuable quality for a striker. For the record, Rodrigues became the top-scorer with five goals, ahead of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Thomas Muller (four each), and is a serious contender for the golden boot.

The fact that Columbia has set a quarter-final date with Brazil shouldn’t be much of a worry following the five-time champions’ ordinary show against Chile.

Neither Neymar nor Fred, it was horizontal bar in the entire ground that saved Brazil the blushes in their last 16 fixture.

The Netherlands, one of the best sides in the competition so far and three-time finalists (1974, 1978 and 2010), was almost in for a rude shock from Mexico yesterday.When it was looking all set for the South American nation to book a quarters berth, Dutchmen Wesley Sneijder and Klaas Jan Huntelaar changed the entire script in a matter of few minutes at the fag end of the regulation time.

Now with top nations Brazil, France and Germany in one half and Argentina and The Netherlands on the other, many football fanatics would dream of a Brazil-Argentina title showdown, but dreams may shatter, thanks to upcoming powers of the world football.

Though Argentina, Germany and France have been on a good rhythm, a lot more surprises may be on cards for them in the week that follows.

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